It's no secret that college tuition fees have rocketed over the past few decades. According to The Harvard Crimson, while a Harvard College graduate in 1988 would have spent $17,100 on tuition during their senior year, a senior-year student in 2018 would have had to pay $44,990 for the same privilege. This represents a markup of 163% in 30 years! And as cost increases have impacted students at public colleges as well as private universities, attending college may be even more unaffordable for many students.

Yet, there are financial aid options, such as non-federal education grants, that make it possible for you to attend college without acquiring thousands of dollars in debt. The U.S. Department of Education's Office of Federal Student Aid provides more than $120 billion in financial aid for college students who qualify each year. Along with federal aid there are also a plethora of grants available from state governments.

In addition, there are an abundance of organizations that offer private grants for college and non-federal grants for college that can help you fund your education. This page addresses the different types of non-governmental grants and how to find and apply for them.

Differences and Similarities between College Grants and Scholarships

College scholarships and grants are both designed to lighten your financial burdens while at school. They are both a form of gift aid, which means neither scholarships nor grants need to be repaid - though in some cases the remaining, unused funds may need to be returned. While they have many similarities, there are few distinctions between them both, which we address below:

Sources of Non-federal Education Grants

A number of suppliers offer private grants for college students. Whether from public or private entities, there's no shortage in the number of non-federal education grants you can pursue when looking to attend a college. Below is a list of the different types of non-governmental education grant you can find:

For a more in-depth review of the different types of grants available to you, visit our Ultimate Guide to Grants 2019.

Specific Categories of Non-Governmental Education Grants

It can be a daunting task to work your way through the abundance of non-federal grants for college in order to find ones that relate to you or for which you're eligible. Below we have also listed examples of different types of non-federal grants for schools, by category, which can narrow your research:

Student-Specific Non-Governmental Education Grants

Student specific non-governmental grants are offered to students with distinct characteristics such as their backgrounds, religion, ethnicities, or disabilities. For example, international students can be eligible for specific grants, as can students who have survived certain illnesses or life events.

The General Henry H. Arnold Education Grant: This Air Force Aid Society grant offers up to $4,000 for spouses or dependents of active, retired, or deceased service members who meet certain qualifications.

Orion Fund Grant: This grant, for college students with a serious illness or injury that affects their ability to stay in school.

Subject-Specific Non-Governmental Education Grants

As the title suggests, these non-governmental grants relate to a chosen major. The grants can be offered by professional associations if you meet certain qualifications.

Hospice And Pallative Nurses Foundation (HPNF) End of Life Nursing Care Research Grant: Eligible applicants for the $5,000 grant must be a registered nurse with a current license, hold a master's or doctoral degree, or be enrolled in a doctoral program. Project must ready for implementation and be completed within one year. Signed Research Grant Agreement is required. Preference will be given to Sigma Theta Tau International and/or HPNF members, other qualifications being equal.

Paul Beeson Career Development Award: This $600,000 to $800,000 grant application must have a clinical doctoral degree (M.D., D.O., D.D.S.) or its equivalent (this may include individuals holding both a M.D. and Ph.D. degrees as well as individuals with a Ph.D. in clinical fields such as clinical psychology, nursing, or physical therapy). Selection is based upon academic merit, the quality and originality of the research project, a well-developed mentorship plan, and the commitment of the sponsoring institution.

Degree-Specific Non-Governmental Education Grants

Similar to subject-specific grants, they depend on your qualifications, prospective or current degree program, or degree level. If the degree level you're working toward is considered to be one that aligns with an "in-demand" occupation, you're likely to be more eligible for these options.

The Hertz Foundation Graduate Fellowship Award: Established in 1947, this grant aims to provide financial assistance to eligible engineering students. Awarded to graduate students across STEM subjects, the total cost of each recipient's education is fully covered, and personal support stipends are also provided.

NC State University Graduate School Diversity Enhancement Grant Program: This grant could be an option for eligible, full-time graduate students who are from underrepresented groups, including but not limited to Native Americans, African-Americans, and Hispanics. Stipends are based on financial need and total up to $3,000 for the academic year.

Minority-Specific Non-Governmental Education Grants

Similar to student-specific grants,minority-specific grants can be options for students from specific backgrounds, such as those within the Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) community.

Career Development Grant: Applicants must be women who hold a bachelor's degree and are preparing to advance their career, change career or re-enter the workforce and who have earned their degree at least five years prior to application. Special consideration is given to women of color and women pursuing their first advanced degree or credentials in nontraditional fields.

Reverend Rufus S. Tarrant Grant: Applicant must be a minority student. Selection is based upon academic performance as measured by school record and standardized test scores.

Non-Governmental College Grants for Online Students

If you're seeking non-governmental college grants as an online student you must first ensure that you're eligible as some awards require the student to be present on campus. That being said, there are many grants available to you if you are taking all your classes or some of your classes online. Listed below are non-governmental grants that cater specifically to online college students:

Penn State World Campus: Penn State offers a number of grants to online students, based on financial need.

Western Kentucky University: Western Kentucky offers a variety of grants and scholarships of varying amount to online students.

How to Find Non-Governmental College Grants

We've compiled a database on our partner site,, of a 1200+ grants available to students currently enrolled at, or hoping to study, colleges and universities in the U.S. You can use filters, applying categories such as those supplied above and several more including military, race, religion, LGBTQ, and private grants for individuals with disabilities, to search for non-governmental grants.

How and When to Apply for Non-Governmental College Grants

To apply for a non-governmental education grant you have to decide on the grant or grants you want more than a year before college enrollment begins. Each grant supplier has a different deadline and varying requirements, so ensure you create a calendar of deadlines and familiarize yourself with the application process.

If you're already enrolled in a degree program, you are also eligible for non-governmental college grants. Again, these grants have varying deadlines, but those tend to be around the start of the school year, so bear in mind that even if you do secure a grant, it could take up to a year for the funding to process.